Out of the Blue: The Pacific Rim as a Region

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Arturo Santa-Cruz


In 1993, in advance of what was to be the first Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leader’s summit, US president Bill Clinton gave a lecture at Waseda University in Japan. In his speech, Clinton called for the creation of a “community of the Pacific.” The idea of a Pacific community is neither Clinton’s nor the Democratic Party’s invention, however. In the previous decade Ronald Reagan had already used it, going even beyond later conceptualizations, by referring to the 21st century as the Pacific’s century. But Reagan's prophecy concerning the Great Ocean was not new back in the 1980s either. In 1900 then US Secretary of State John Hay wrote: “the Mediterranean is the ocean of the past, the Atlantic the ocean of the present and the Pacific is the ocean of the future.” In a more general manner, as Christopher Coker has observed, the notion of the “Century of the Pacific” is plausible because it is consistent with the idea, popularized by Hegel, that the spirit of civilization is moving toward that part of the globe. Thus, the century of the Pacific has become a kind of zeitgeist. In this paper I undertake a conceptual, historical, and theoretical journey through the “Pacific Rim” or “Asia-Pacific,” as it has been called more recently. Although I will question the utility of the term, I want to make clear that my purpose is only to undertake a critical survey of “the Pacific.” As in any trip, however, one needs a starting point. But, What is the starting point of the Pacific Rim, that geographic zone that has been compared to Pascal’s sphere: “with periphery indeterminable and a center that may be anywhere”?

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Author Biography

Arturo Santa-Cruz, University of Guadalajara, Mexico

Dr Arturo Santa-Cruz works in the Departamento de Estudios del Pacífico (Department of Pacific Studies) at the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico. His research focuses on international relations in the Pacific Rim.